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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Railroad intersection fix designed to curb impatient drivers

Spokane Valley project manager Ken Knutson plugs an ear against a BNSF freight train horn blast at Park Road south of Trent Avenue. Knutson said the state is kicking in money to fix the crossing so motorists won’t be able to drive around lowered crossing arms. (Colin Mulvany)

The city of Spokane Valley is using state grant money to protect a handful of drivers from their own impatience.

Too many drivers have been weaving around railroad crossing arms after they’ve been lowered at Park Road just south of Trent Avenue.

The result is a dangerous situation for them and for train crews.

Spokane Valley engineers are designing a project to install concrete centerline barriers to keep drivers from going around the crossing arms on the pair of adjacent BNSF Railway lines.

The 12-inch-high barriers will extend 100 feet in both directions and will be topped with flexible markers known as “candles.”

Drivers will have no choice but to wait for the trains.

The city got $40,000 from the Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission following an investigation by the WUTC staff.

The commission staff said that in the past two years, at least four drivers have been spotted going around the crossing bars in the face of oncoming trains.

Ken Knutson, project manager, said Spokane Valley was asked to apply for the grant.

“Approximately 50 trains travel daily across both railroad crossings at Park Road at speeds up to 79 mph,” the commission staff said in a news release.

BNSF spokesman Gus Melonas said crossing safety long has been a problem for the railroad.

“People seem oblivious at times that it’s a main line,” he said.

It’s not just motorists. Melonas said bike riders and pedestrians also are frequent violators.

He said train crews forward reports to BNSF officials who then work with the state, law enforcement and railroad enforcement to reduce crossing violations.

Locations with the most violations may then qualify for grants to make improvements.

The grant money comes from a grade crossing protection fund that was established by the Legislature in 1969.

The WUTC also operates Operation Lifesaver in Washington, which is a nationwide rail safety education program.

New intersection, wider Broadway

Also in Spokane Valley, work starts today on construction of a new, more durable, concrete intersection at Sullivan Road and Broadway Avenue near Walmart and Lowe’s.

The work will be done in stages, keeping most of the intersection open to traffic but with reduced capacity.

The project should be done by late May.

Initially, the northbound and southbound lanes are reduced to two in each direction. Left turns from southbound Sullivan onto eastbound Broadway will be reduced to one lane. Broadway west of Sullivan will be closed.

In stage two, traffic on Broadway east of Sullivan will be restricted. Eastbound lanes west of Sullivan will be closed.

In stage three, turns will be prohibited from northbound Sullivan to eastbound Broadway, while eastbound lanes on Broadway remain closed.

That job will be followed by closure and reconstruction of the Sullivan and Sprague Avenue intersection over a three-week period in late May to June.

A later project involves widening Broadway from the Lowe’s store east to Flora Road, a job that is anticipated to last from June to September.

Regal signal work nearly complete

Paving to finish up the installation of a new traffic signal at 44th Avenue and Regal Street is imminent, and once the paving is finished this month, the intersection will be fully open.